Secret Teachers

There is an increasingly frequently told tale of the vicissitudes in the development of human consciousness over historic times, of the loss and reconnection with an understanding of who we are and our place in the scheme of things, of the golden thread that runs through history, of the recovery of balance in the human psyche, of the various periods of renaissance of the highest spirit of humanity…

secret teachers coverGary Lachman is an able storyteller. In his book The Secret Teachers of the Western World he tells this tale, giving pictures of the significance of many key actors along the way – the secret teachers. To my mind this story of the polarity of movement of humanity between the extremes of darkness and renaissance is of utmost significance, particularly given the dark times that threaten.

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Inglorious twelfth

UK readers will be aware that there has been a bit of a fuss recently related to the start of the grouse shooting season on the 12th August – glorious to some, inglorious to others – and a heavily supported petition to parliament. If you read an earlier post of mine on shooting snipe, you’ll have no doubt where I stand on the issue.

In his Guardian article, George Monbiot clearly summarises the political issues, and in particular the great lengths the vested interests are going to protect their business.

It is of interest to consider why people shoot grouse, and why they defend their pursuit so vigorously. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a useful model to do this.

1. Physiological

At the lowest level are basic needs necessary for physical survival. Here grouse would be shot for food. Today, only possibly the odd poacher would be operating at this level.

2. Security

At the next level are needs for safety and security. Financial security comes at this level, so this is a significant factor in today’s grouse business – the gamekeeper protecting his salary by sometimes nefarious means, the moor owner protecting his business eg by attacking environmental organisations.

3. Social – Belonging, Love

We can perhaps categorise three major social groups that are into grouse shooting – the traditional landed aristocracy, led by the royals; the ‘sportsmen’ who actually see this as a skilled sport; and the newly moneyed who do it because they can, and it differentiates them from ‘ordinary people’.

4. Esteem

The same groups gain recognition and appreciation of their fellow shooters, so are also at this level.

5. Self-actualizing

This is the highest of Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential. I suggest that few people at this level would be interested in shooting birds, except perhaps for balance of nature reasons.

6. Self transcendence

In his later work Maslow realised there is an additional, spiritual, level where the concerns of the individual ego are transcended, leading to altruism and concern with the general good. This includes being an integrated part of the natural world, so forget shooting birds.

Taking this perspective, and seeing that humanity and societies generally are moving in a direction up the hierarchy (but not without the odd step backwards), we can take comfort in the fact that grouse shooting will eventually be banned in the UK, just as have many other abuses of the animal world over recent centuries.

If living in the UK, maybe you should sign the petition.

Featured image of a shooting party in Wrest Park 1929

 

 

Gazing into the mystery

I am about 4. It has been raining. I am crouched over a puddle between the road and the grass verge, outside our house in Lincoln. I am fascinated by the scudding clouds reflected in the puddle. There is a feeling of wonder at the majesty of the clouds and their reflections in the puddle. I often go back to look in the puddles again.

Perhaps these are early intimations of transcendence. Later, I experience similar looking out over the sea and the incoming waves, watching a sunset, a rainbow, the moon reflected over the sea, vast land vistas, etc. Abraham Maslow coined the term ‘peak experiences’, which seems to aptly describe what is going on.

At such times I am overawed by the beauty and wonder of the natural world, invoking the mystery of life itself, the unanswerable questions.

I always recall singer/comedian Mike Harding recounting just such an experience in Rochdale, when doing a gig in the 1980s:

“I woke up, went to the window and gazed out over a sea of stars.
I got philosophical and thought ‘What is it all about?’.
Then I thought ‘It’s got bugger all to do with me’, and went back to bed.”

The ego always gets back in control as soon as it can!

Featured image courtesy of Nanie and Wikimedia Commons